Wolf Parade released a widely acclaimed album in 2005, and have built a formidable live reputation since playing their first show opening for a nascent Arcade Fire. While they gave a good performance on a warm Friday night, they’ve undoubtedly done better, and were overshadowed by two first-rate opening acts.

Holy Fuck had already begun their set when I walked into Barrymore’s at 9:35. They had already impressed me with a scorching Bluesfest set. They were even better this time around. Was it because their analogue techno seemed more at home in a dance club than a high school football field? Was it because they had founding member Glenn Milchem on drums? Was it because Barrymore’s wasn’t 35 degrees Celsius under a blazing a sun?

Their live rhythm section (Milchem and bassist Kevin Lynn) provided a driving beat for Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh to surround with the clicking, beeping and clonking sounds of a grab bag of guitar pedals, cheesy keyboards, toy instruments and a 35mm film synchronizer.

They also got a boost from Wolf Parade’s Hadji Bakara, who showed up to “help us freak out.”

The next band on stage was Frog Eyes, a group with a strong link to Wolf Parade. Spencer Krug was a founding member of both groups, and he’s rejoined the Eyes for that band’s tour with his other group, Sunset Rubdown.

Shaking like a man trying to regain control of a runaway jackhammer, Carey Mercer screeched and howled his way through the band’s songs, his scrabbling guitar parts a strange counterpart to the melodic underpinnings of Krug's keyboards and the solid rhythms of bassist Mike Rak and drummer Melanie Campbell. At a previous show backing Destroyer (a.k.a. Dan Bejar of the New Pornographers), I’d been impressed by their unhinged Pixies-influenced art rock. This time their performance was even more compelling, with Mercer’s crazed performance failing to conceal the looming crescendo embedded in the music.

After two impressive openers, even a strong effort from Wolf Parade seemed to lack a little something. Spencer Krug’s near constant battle with a malfunctioning monitor and a dodgy direct box didn’t help, either. On the plus side guitarist Dan Boeckner injected a lot of energy into the show with his stage moves, and Bakara’s Theremin and electronic manipulations added an unpredictable edge to the group’s tunes. The group also did a capable job of reproducing the music from their widely acclaimed ‘Apologies to the Queen Mary’.

While some members of the audience flailed away in ecstasy, I saw others slip away. Call it a strong finish, but not a highlight.

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